Reforming Failed Infrastructure, Struggling for the State: Lessons from Lebanon

Watch the full video of the Centre for Policy Research-CSH (Centre de Sciences Humaines) workshop, featuring Eric Verdeil on ‘Reforming Failed Infrastructure, Struggling for the State: Lessons from Lebanon’ on the 30th of october 2018.

The talk considers infrastructure as a site for the examination of urban governance in Lebanon, in a context of failure of the state to provide basic public services such as electricity and waste. The argument is threefold. First, public infrastructure is a site of political struggle. Political actors seek to make infrastructure serve certain political and social interests, demonstrating their belief that these state institutions and instruments produce a range of effects worth competing for. Second, the talk challenges the view that neoliberalism and sectarianism are radically narrowing and marginalising the state and its institutions. Third, despite failing to deliver the expected service outcomes, the complex assemblage of more-or-less reformed infrastructural policy instruments produces strong social effects in terms of wealth distribution. These instruments accentuate Lebanese society’s gaps and inequalities. This outcome is largely unintended, as is often the case with public policy instruments. It is a product of the work of state institutions, however, and not proof of their absence. To make this argument, this talk explores urban services in Beirut through the main types of instruments that successive governments and their advisers—commonly from the World Bank and other international organisations—have adopted for their reform: the geographic boundaries of the zones where urban services are organised; the services’ financing instruments, such as subsidies and pricing; and public-private partnerships.

Eric Verdeil is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at Sciences Po, Paris and researcher at the Centre for International Research (CERI).

The question and answer session that followed can be accessed here.

This talk is based on this article (a kind of Q&A summary is also to be found here)


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